> Internet > PAC 68 – Virtual Intrusion as a Means of Political Intervention

PAC 68 – Virtual Intrusion as a Means of Political Intervention The attacks by the protesters’ group Anonymous

By Adrien Cherqui

Translation: Pierre Chabal

Passage au crible n°68

AnonymousSource: Wikimedia

Anonymous regularly makes the headlines. On May 21, 2012, individuals claiming to be Anonymous stole from the U.S. State Department of Justice, then published on The Pirate Bay 1.7 gigabytes of data including notably internal emails. With its high media visibility, Anonymous continues to increase its actions over the past months.

Historical background
Theoretical framework

Historical background

Anonymous saw light on the imageboard www.4chan.org in 2006. A site enabling viewers to share images without prior registration. Under the generic pseudonym Anonymous, a growing number of Internet users and demonstrators took part, early 2008, in a series of protests against the Church of Scientology. The Church then tried to delete from the Internet a proselytizing video in which the actor Tom Cruise acted. This series of actions called Project Chanology marked the entry into politics of Anonymous. Its battles then multiplied to follow international news. In December 2010, supporting Wikileaks and responding to retaliation measures on the association, Anonymous launched a cyber-vedetta named Operation Payback. Since then, this has taken the form of attacks by denial of service (DDoS) aimed at businesses having discontinued services they had put at the disposal of Julian Assange 1. The Arab Spring also enjoyed the support of Anonymous and of Telecomix. More recently, Anonymous has conducted operations aiming to denounce the closure of the site MegaUpload and the establishment of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and of the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This multiplicity of interventions and the multiplicity of targets – whether public or private – is not unrelated to the heterogeneity which characterizes the movement.

Theoretical framework

1. A transnational network. As actors on the world stage, Anonymous has established itself in a reticular manner by facilitating relationships between sovereignty-free actors. These connections facilitate a greater mobilization thanks to the simultaneous maintenance of strong and weak links (Mark Granovetter) providing access to several social structures at once.
2. An imagined community of activists. With this concept of Benedict Anderson, we understand better the links between an aggregate of people not necessarily aiming at common goals. However, these people share a repertoire of actions and representations based upon a rejection of any hierarchy. That is why they emphasize horizontal relationships.


Democratization of the Internet and the maintaining of the freedom of expression in the cyberspace remain issues in the fundamental fight for entities such as Telecomix or Anonymous. At a time when everyone can speak anonymously on the Internet, information is becoming a cause for which many militants are fighting. The proliferation of access to Internet and the emergence of new forms of contact via spaces of digital sociability favor the expansion of networks of individuals.

The Anonymous are involved in this phenomenon. Having become a unique forum for debate, the Internet has been used in various forms and has contributed to the establishment of an evolution within the repertoire of collective action. The diversity of Anonymous and their reticularity facilitate the resurgence of protests. Alliance of hackers, script kiddies or of mere activists refusing any leadership and favoring forms of self-management, Anonymous provides a tool enabling them to federate and bring in cooperation a broad spectrum of supporters. Similar to a nebula of interests and causes, Anonymous works as a label that can increase the symbolic dimension and legitimacy of operations undertaken. Let us emphasize in this regard that the use of the same diffusion processes of videos on the Internet contributes to the media economy of battles fought. Illustrating the liberal atomization, the Anonymous manage to reconstruct, through technology, a new space of resistance. Born into a dematerialized world, Anonymous tend to use at the same time a series of so-called conventional means – such as the demonstration or the raid – but also methods such as hacking, or dephacing.

Fraught with cyberculture, Anonymous is growing in part on an ideal breeding ground in favor of freedom of expression. The challenge of regulating the Internet in this regard is one of the main ideological bases. Moreover, one of the most striking features of Anonymous resides in the transnational circulation of ideas and practices. In doing so, we note that the development of social networks and of Internet Relay Chat used by them plays a fundamental role by participating to the creation of cyberspaces and the synchronization of numerous groups claiming affiliation to Anonymous. Let us mention in this regard how the creation of communitary Internet sites appears as a vector spreading common values. Also, although it is a global network, the causes espoused are part of a local environment: local problems are globalized through new technologies of information and communication. Local actors then ascribe to in local-global transactions, which transform them into political subjects with multiple scales. Here we find the overlapping scales at the heart of the mobilization highlighted by Saskia Sassen. For example, remember that people claiming to belong to Anonymous, outside the countries signatories of the ACTA treaty signatories, have intervened alongside other Anonymous, thereby revealing the transnationality of the movement and the interdependence of these protagonists.

Reinforced by an amplification of transnational communication, Anonymous is similar to an imagined community that transcends borders. Now, Anonymous offers to some citizens the means to challenge government action. Clearly, States can no longer ignore the Anonymous, as their presence is truly part of a global dimension.


ANDERSON Benedict, L’Imaginaire national. Réflexions sur l’origine et l’essor du nationalisme, Paris, La Découverte 2002.
BARDEAU Frédéric, DANET Nicolas, Anonymous : Pirates informatiques ou altermondialistes numériques ?, Paris, FYP, 2011.
DEVIN Guillaume (Éd.), Les Solidarités transnationales, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2004, Coll. Logiques politiques.
GRANJON Fabien, L’Internet militant : Mouvement social et usage des réseaux télématiques, Paris, Apogée, 2001. Coll. Médias et nouvelles technologies.
ROSENAU James, People Count! Networked Individuals in Global Politics, Boulder, Paradigm, 2008, Coll. International Studies Intensives.
SASSEN Saskia, La Globalisation. Une sociologie, Paris, Gallimard, 2009


1. Computer attack aimed at making a site inaccessible to a large number of simultaneous connections on it.